Customers

It’s been a long time since I had a retail job. I’ve been a computer nerd for 40+ years and, about half that — weaving back & forth between corporate gigs — I was self-employed. So I’m familiar with the concept of having customers — or at least clients; even in corporate gigs, we talk about others who depend on our work as “customers”. (In the extra-nerdy corporate cultures, we call them “clients”, but not in the “I am the contractor’s client” sense, more like “they are the server’s client” sense.)

So, as I approach opening my first personally owned open-to-the-public customer-facing store*, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want the customer experience to look like and, especially, how to handle exceptions.

* The brewery. We submitted plans to the city and are currently awaiting their comments. Facebook is the best way to keep up-to-date on what’s happening there; this blog will remain more philosophical and abstract, or at least shower-thoughts-y.

Obviously, we want a great customer experience, and our culture will be driven by The ManyFriends Thing (see other posts in this blog for more on that). But, as we consider various exception situations — unruly folk, disrespectful folk, “h8ers”, etc. — I start to think about what experience we want them to have, and what experience we want the “good customers” in their presence to have.

It’s a tricky area. Some suggest “throw them out on their ear” while others think it’s more MF-ish to treat misbehaviour with love and kindness, as an opportunity for growth all around. And, of course, there are a variety of responses in between. This doesn’t even get into what counts as misbehaviour in an environment that prides itself in being non-judgemental. And, of course, everyone’s got an opinion. As I test-drive various responses to various situations, I find none particularly perfect and many of them fairly awful; not to mention the challenges presented by implementation details.

In the end, it seems I am to play the part of “benevolent dictator” and rule with what I feel is a fair, just and loving hand, responding to each situation as it arises. My experience tells me that trying to over-codify these things just leads to instances of “gaming the rules” and complaints of uneven application. So we will start with an atmosphere of acceptance and fun, offer guidance to the seemingly ignorant and and halt the unacceptable as kindly as possible, without permitting it to continue.

Like I said: tricky business. We’ll see how I do. Or, with luck, it’ll never come up. “Hope for the best; plan for the worst.”

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